Meet Ryan Kelleher!

We are thrilled to welcome Ryan Kelleher as our new Director of Membership and Sustainability. Ryan is no stranger to UWF, from working as an organizer with Grassroots Illinois Action during the 2015 elections and going on to recruit Delia Ramirez to run for state representative in the 2018 elections. As the co-chair of Delia’s campaign, Ryan spearheaded efforts to raise over $100,000 for the campaign from small-dollar grassroots donors. 

Ryan is an experienced organizer who has built Black and Latinx-led campaigns at Fight for 15, Chicago Votes, and Grassroots Illinois Action; as Director of Membership and Sustainability, she will apply her organizing skills to build the grassroots donor base needed to fund progressive, independent political infrastructure. Read more about her journey in her own words:

I have grown up in Chicago my entire life and I’ve seen it change. I think that building United Working Families is vital in saving the soul of this city from becoming a place for only the rich and white.

I have spent the last eight years doing community, political, and labor organizing. I am deeply committed to social justice and building a grassroots coalition of working, people of color, and women that fight for and win systemic change in our city and state. I believe that United Working Families is our best vehicle at building a permanent political organization that empowers poor and working people to endorse candidates and recruit new leaders to take on and win political fights at the local and national level.

In my experience working in politics, there’s one overarching problem on the left: we show up at election time, we throw in a bunch of resources and time, and then after election day, we pack up never build a lasting, sustainable organization. For the past few years, I have done politics differently because I want to win and we will only do that by building something that lasts. We can’t rely on paid canvassers and mailers to win elections. The other side will ALWAYS have more money.

A great example of building the type of political program that I’m talking about is the work we have done in Humboldt Park over the last four years with Grassroots Illinois Action. When I arrived on the scene in December of 2014, the alderman was a close ally of the mayor. He had voted to close 50 schools, he turned the neighborhood school into a military academy, and he took thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from developers to build condos and luxury developments in his ward.

Today, he is a new man. He endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, he is an ally of the Chicago Teachers Union and the Fight for 15, a critic of the mayor, and he’s negotiating with GIA members around zoning developments in the 26th ward.

Why did he change, you ask? There are two reasons.

  1. We have built a local political organization, Grassroots Illinois Action, that consists of committed and passionate volunteers that knock on doors, hold meetings, and organize protests to hold our elected officials accountable.

  2. We get political at election time. We endorse candidates for office, and recruit our own when needed. This is building true political power at the local level that is permanent and this is what every elected official is terrified of.

Most recently, as the co-chair of the Delia for State Representative, I led the effort to #DraftDelia and went on to raise over $100,000 for the campaign from small dollar giving. On March 20th, we won with over 48% of the vote in a four-way race. It was a collective victory that was the result of the work that our members and allies had been doing for years.

Now that we know how to elect grassroots candidates, it is our job to figure out how to keep them with us by holding them accountable and setting them up to be successful. At UWF, I look forward to building the durable grassroots donor base we need to fund progressive, independent political organization.

Become a UWF sustaining member today!

Ryan (second from left) with Delia Ramirez (third from left) and UWF Organizing Director Candis Castillo (third from right) on the 2018 campaign.

Ryan (second from left) with Delia Ramirez (third from left) and UWF Organizing Director Candis Castillo (third from right) on the 2018 campaign.